Bringing Ballet to Boston Calling

Sage Humphries stands at the front of the rehearsal studio in a blue top, white shirt, leg warmers, and ballet slippers

Sage Humphries

Photo credit: Brooke Trisolini

Sharing the Stage of Rock Stars

Boston Ballet dancer Sage Humphries shares her excitement about creating a new work for Boston Calling Music Festival.

Jessica Burrows and Patric Palkens in Sage Humphries' YOU

Photo credit: Brooke Trisolini

Sage and Michael Humphries

Photo credit: Brooke Trisolini

Jessica Burrows and Patric Palkens in Sage Humphries' YOU

Photo credit: Brooke Trisolini

Sage and Michael Humphries

Photo credit: Brooke Trisolini

Boston Ballet will perform at the 10th edition of Boston Calling, a popular three-day music festival. The Company will perform works by William Forsythe, former Principal Dancer Yury Yanowsky, and Artist Sage Humphries.

What does it mean to you getting the opportunity to choreograph for Boston Calling?
Sage Humphries: This opportunity is so big for me in a lot of ways. It combines the two industries I love the most, music and ballet, and puts it all together on stage in front of a different kind of crowd. I’m excited to tell this story about music and movement. 

What was your reaction when you found out?
SH: I was stunned when I found out. I called my brother, Michael, immediately and we looked up this year’s festival line-up, which just magnified my excitement. I also get to work on principal dancers. As an artist with the Company, choreographing on people that inspire me who are more experienced than I am amplifies the feeling that this is going to be big.

The music is by Future Self, your brother Michael. What is it like working with him? What is the music like?
SH: Getting to work with my brother is a dream because he is so innovative. He trusts me as a choreographer and I trust him as a composer. His music is very modern and he’s trained in different styles. He’s composing a piece specifically for Boston Calling and he will be playing electric guitar live; adding another element to the choreography. 

You'll be reaching a lot of people with this performance, some who may have never experienced Boston Ballet before. What are you hoping this performance will do? 
SH: My hope is that it’s relatable and nostalgic. I hope the audience can clearly see how adding a dance component to music they already love will expand it’s meaning. William Forsythe is another choreographer who’s going to be a part of this program, and he is fantastic at telling a story through movement. I hope the audience can look at my piece and see a very relatable yet magical thing.

You recently presented new work for ChoreograpHER, a program dedicated to emerging female choreographers, as part of BB@home. How important is it that Boston Ballet has this platform?
SH: It’s huge. It’s not just something that’s happening within our walls, it’s happening everywhere. The ideas that women have, and the different ways we can express ourselves are finally getting a platform. I hope the audience can see that we’re expanding ourselves and pushing those boundaries. I feel like our voices are just starting to be heard, and I can’t wait for our ideas to reach even more people.

Sage Humphries stands next to a piano in a blue top long white shirt and ballet slippers. Michael Humphries is seated at the piano.

Sage and Michael Humphries

Photo credit: Brooke Trisolini

Are you taking a different approach to choreographing for BB@home: ChoreograpHER versus for Boston Calling?
SH: I think the way I approached ChoreograpHER last time was a little timid, because it was my first professional piece ever. With my second work, I can now use my knowledge from those rehearsals and I can hopefully go in with more confidence in my vision.

What have the rehearsals been like? What is it like working with your fellow Company dancers?
SH: My dancers are the most capable and beautiful muses I could ever ask for. When I started rehearsals I just threw all my thoughts at them and they’ve been amazing because they can immediately grasp my vision. They’re amazing executers and collaborators.

Your piece is a tribute to rock and roll. How do you showcase that through your choreography?
SH: I did a lot of research. I studied the funky dance moves of the Beatles, Mick Jagger, and Freddie Mercury. My piece is Neo-classical so I wanted to involve some of those fun moves. Rock and roll naturally brings out movement in people. When you hear music, you’re kind of just bopping along; I wanted to bring that human element to it as well.

What do you want the audience to feel while watching your piece?
SH: I want them to hear familiar tunes in their head and feel like they could almost sing along. I hope it takes them back to a place in their childhood, listening to their first record. It should have the vinyl, vintage feeling. I hope my piece starts a conversation around pairing different types of dance with modern music, and just how cool that is.

Boston Calling

May 25–26, 2019

The illusion we create is intended to deepen your understanding of reality.

Mikko Nissinen, Artistic Director
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